Globetrotting television presenter Sian Lloyd took a break from filming at exotic places around the world to learn new cooking skills in the fine dining kitchen of an award winning Welsh country house hotel.
The former ITV weather forecaster, who is passionate about Welsh food, agreed to become a chef for the day to promote the value of vocational qualifications in the lead up to the VQ Awards in Wales in June 9 and national VQ Day the following day.
The VQ Awards are organised by the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and CollegesWales. The awards are part funded by the European Social Fund.
Sian, who is filming a series on climate change for American television company CNN and also writes holiday reviews for the Mail on Sunday, was drafted into the kitchen at Llangoed Hall at Llyswen, near Brecon, one of her favourite places to dine and stay.
Under the guidance of head chef Nick Brodie, she learnt new culinary skills by preparing fine dining dishes for the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, which was upgraded to three rosettes by the AA in 2014.
“Food has always been a big passion of mine but I don’t think I would have had the skill or the patience to become a top chef,” confessed Sian. “I admire them so much. I did Master Chef at one point and worked in a professional kitchen where I saw how difficult it was.
“I am passionate about promoting Welsh food and they cook it so beautifully at Llangoed Hall, which is one of my favourite restaurants in Wales. Nick is hugely talented and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a Michelin star.
“Although I love food, I am a wimpish cook. I am a generous entertainer but I tend to cook easy food that I can’t ruin when we have guests. Hopefully, the masterclass I have had from Nick will encourage me to be a bit more adventurous in future.”
Mr Brodie was impressed by the cooking skills of his apprentice for the day and said that she definitely had potential to become a chef.
Sian is a big supporter of vocational qualifications and work-based learning. “I am a great admirer of NPTC’s Newtown college and have seen the phenomenal work they do in the catering department to encourage students to develop skills and achieve qualifications that will be vital to their careers,” she explained.
“With so many people going for jobs nowadays, employers are looking closely at qualifications and work-based experience. Anything that gives you the edge has got to be beneficial.”
Calum Milne, Llangoed Hall’s managing director, is an ambassador for food and drink skills in Wales and a strong advocate of work-based and lifelong learning. He employs 50 staff, seven of whom are undergoing training programmes, including two catering apprenticeships.
“There was a time when I said that qualifications meant not as much as experience, but in hindsight and having maturity on my side, I would now say they both work better together.
“Work-based learning has more growth potential for encouraging people into the hospitality industry because they have no false expectations of it. This is a lifestyle industry from which there can be many great rewards. Whether you’re 17 or 51 there is no limit to anybody’s learning capacity.”
VQ Day is a national celebration of people who have achieved success in vocational education in Wales. Vocational qualifications have never been more important to the economy and the individual; they deliver the trained, talented employees businesses are crying out for and ensure young people have the skills needed to succeed in education and work.
VQ Day supports the aspiration that vocational qualifications, which are not just for young people, should achieve parity of esteem alongside other educational routes.
The VQ Awards in Wales help to showcase individuals and organisations that have raised the standard of the services they offer as a result of vocational qualifications.
There are two award categories: the VQ Learner of the Year and the VQ Employer of the Year. The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony to be held at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff on the evening of June 9, the eve of VQ Day.